I want to tell you a story. A story about a goofy little toddler who is rarely dressed in anything resembling a decent outfit. She spends half the time wearing princess costumes and the other half completely naked. She is a wild mixture of chaos and gentleness and she is ALWAYS needing me. One afternoon, while I was diligently tip-tapping away on my computer, probably talking to one of you guys, she was incessant. She crawled at my legs and whined for food and I was so frustrated, I turned around and saw something that made me want to pull out all my hair… said daughter had been playing with stamps. She was COVERED in stamps you guys. You know the little teacher stamps “excellent!” and “good job!”? Well those red little marks were up and down her arms.
I was about to admonish her for coloring on herself (we have a hard fast rule not to do this) but I looked up into her eyes and I had this moment. You know what I am talking about. The moment where you see past the need, you see past what is happening, you look deep into your child’s eyes and you see their heart. My little girl needed my attention, my affection, she didn’t need my admonishment for what she had done wrong, but words of encouragement to build her up. So I did something that shocked even me in it’s impulsivity. I wrote on her hand “funny”. And handed her hand back to her. I then calmly went back to my work, watching her out of the corner of my eye. She looked at her hand, then up at me, shocked that mommy had broken the rule and said “mommy? you colored?!?” I looked into her deep dark eyes and told her “Yes, this says funny, you are SO funny Janiah, you make mommy laugh and I love that about you.” She looked back at her hand and her mouth opened up in shock, wonder, pure, unadulterated JOY. She started laughing and I knew I was onto something.
So I put down my work and she toddled along behind me, my little stalker. I went over to the laundry room in our unfinished basement and started folding a load of laundry. She stood there for a minute and then just started helping, pulling clothes out and trying to fold them. I spent some time showing her how to fold and she was totally catching on. When she had folded something properly (it wasn’t perfect, but hey, she’s two) I wrote on her other hand “helper”. You guys… she glowed. She looked at one and smiled in wonder and whispered “funny, Niah is funny” and then she touched her other one, almost reverently “helper, I’m mamas helper”. I was totally in awe, watching this transformation, seeing these simple little words penetrate deeply into her heart, her soul, her mind. I was breaking a rule, that added a certain element of weight to these words. But the point is this: words have power!
We didn’t stop there, she was drawn to me. She was at my side like glue on paper, waiting for an opportunity to be my helper, to make me laugh. I can’t even remember what she did next, sharing something with me. But before I knew it, I was calmly writing “generous” on her arm, telling her that she was so kind and generous. When daddy came home she was pointing to each word and saying them nearly perfectly, telling him that she was “genwas and helpful and funny”. I saw her sparkle and shine. I reached my little girl in a way that I never have before and all because of a pen and an impulsive move to write a little message to my daughter. I had NO idea how much it would affect her and I was blown away.
That night as I was tucking her into bed, smoothing her wild unruly curls behind her ears, she was smiling the most content smile. She was proud, she was loved, she was secure and confident in who she was. And I just wanted to cry. Sometimes I get lost. I get caught up in just meeting their needs. In just making meals and cleaning up and teaching them school and breaking up fights. Any spare minutes I have I want a few seconds to myself to read an email or have a coffee or go on a walk and I have missed so many opportunities like this. ALL it took was a few words. I didn’t sit down and spend an hour with her, I let her be a part of what I was doing and I visited with her and I encouraged her. The whining was gone, the food was forgotten. How many times do my kids whine for food when what they really need is nourishment of their souls? I learned an important lesson that day and it was one that I desperately needed.
Have you ever done something that shocked your kids and just touched their hearts? PLEASE share in the comments!
We all want to connect with our kids, so if you have some little thing you tried with your kids that gave you that “moment”, share them! We need to be more intentional, time is short, and better to spend QUALITY time truly connecting than a lot of time where we are missing the mark.